Redefining the Word ‘Influencer’ and How to Talk about Influence: DonYe Taylor Returns – Episode 11

James Nord
April 6, 2022
Updated Feb 09, 2024

Today’s episode is about the negative depiction of influencers and how to address this, with our Director of Creator Initiatives, DonYe Taylor. You can submit your questions here.

This episode includes:

  • Why DonYe was reluctant to use ‘influencer’
  • Defining your 'why'
  • Influencers need to recognize their power in the advertising industry
  • How to introduce yourself

Welcome back, DonYe!

James Nord: Welcome Negronis with Nord episode 11, we have our favorite special guest back for the second time. DonYe Taylor. Welcome. Thank you DonYe. As you know is our director of creator initiatives here at Fohr is in the office for this week. I think it is a good time to kind of pick up a little bit on the conversation we were having last time. Talk a bit about what you are trying to do here. Why do you work here?

DonYe Taylor: I work here number one, because Fohr is a great company. Duh. But I also truly believe in the power of influencer marketing. And I'm an influencer myself, so to speak. But for so long, I never really correlated with the term. And once I started working here, it kind of forced me to shift my perception of influencer marketing more from the business side. And it made me think like, "Wow, why was I so reluctant to name myself an influencer?" And I think it was because it's just has this really negative connotation surrounding the name, that I don't think matches me, who I am as a creator, as an influencer. Then I was like, wait a second. It's probably so many other people that feel the same way I do. And I think it is up to us for being the innovator in the space to shift that narrative, so that people like me are comfortable with calling themselves an influencer.

Shifting the perception of the word 'influencer'

James: Yeah. DonYe came in and gave a presentation after a month or so. And kind of said exactly everything that she was hoping to accomplish. And number one on the list was yeah, shift the perception of what it means to be an influencer. And I think this perception is overwhelmingly negative. And as we were talking about this goal of changing the perception of influencers, I was thinking just about how negative the depictions of an influencers and influencer culture is in pop culture. There isn't a single movie TV show that has a person in it that is working as an influencer where they're not the dumbest, like most vapid self obsessed character. And it's [inaudible 00:02:21] actually, honestly, and it is not a true representation of influencers, but I think that is how a lot of the world sees as, as silly non serious people that take pictures of themselves all day and somehow get paid. Right?

DonYe: And shallow.

James: And shallow. Yes. I think obviously starting this company almost 10 years ago now, we did it to help solidify the space and to turn it into a recognized, respected part of advertising and marketing. And that depiction of influencers, I think, has been pretty constant throughout the 10 years. So as you think about it where it is today, they are vapid self-involved and it's not a serious job. Where do you think you want to take it? What is a more fair depiction of it?

DonYe: I think that influencers are not just people that influence somebody to purchase a product, it's not directly correlated to a physical attribute. I think that's where it's at right now. I think influence is more related to using your persuasion, like the gift of persuasion, to get somebody to take in a positive action, whether that be to change their lifestyle, change how they think about themselves. I think that is really true influence. And I feel like if you can do that, then all of the other shallow things would just fall underneath the umbrella. I don't think it's the opposite. And I think right now it is the opposite. So yeah, that's how I see it.

I think influence is more related to using your persuasion, like the gift of persuasion, to get somebody to take in a positive action, whether that be to change their lifestyle, change how they think about themselves. - DonYe.

James: I think that for influencers out there, it is interesting to think about in your own life, the things that you have been influenced by that are bigger than buying a product. Right? Because obviously that is what much of the industry is built around. But when you actually talk to people, you find that maybe they moved to a certain city because an influencer lived there and they kind of fell in love with the way it looked, they got out of a toxic relationship, they quit a job.

Whatever it might be, it can be you influenced me to go to this restaurant that looked cool, or it can be, you influenced me to completely change the direction of my life. And I think I know something you want to focus more on is those bigger moments you talked about? I know something that a lot of people sent notes about was something you mentioned the first time we had you here about how hard it can be to work on something creatively that you're not connected to. In that instance for anyone. Right? It can be really important to ask, why you do it and center it in mission? Why do you put all the time you do into creating content?

Defining your 'why'

DonYe: So I grew up in Maryland. There were not a lot of creative careers that I was exposed to. And it was really hard for me to just nail down that one person that I wanted to be like, as it related to my career. Because I didn't really see it. I would see somebody and be like, "They got it just a little bit, but not all the way." And I was like, "Okay, I guess I kind of just got to do this on my own and figure it out." And I did that and I didn't know that me doing that was influential in itself. So I have set out on this journey to kind of like create the career, the life that I didn't see growing up when I was younger and me doing that in turn has kind of now turned into My Why.

I think sometimes the influencers set out to do something, but then their audience receives it in a completely different way. And I think that's where I'm at with my creative career. I get a lot of DMS and people say, "Wow." I feel like this is where I want to go in my life. So I'm getting the DMS that I feel like I would've loved to send to somebody 10 years ago. And it's like, when you get those DMS, you realize that, wow, like I'm actually influencing somebody's life, their lifestyle, their decisions, their choices, things like that. So over time that has kind of turned into My Why. And I also feel like a large portion of My Why is rooted in creative motivation. I feel like creatives need a different type of motivation. It's a little bit deeper than just general self-help quotes.

It's a combination between self-help actual like tactical action items that you can do. That day I've gone to so many different talks and people are just giving general advice. And then in the moment it's like, "Oh my God, this makes me feel so good." But then when you leave, it's like, "what am I supposed to do now?" you know what I mean? So I speak to the people that would ask that question. What do I do now? It's like, I like to provide the answer of what do I do now? As it relates to my creativity in that, like in a bubble,Is My Why.

Writing your vision statement

James: Think, yeah, it's hugely powerful to step back and early on, if you haven't done it yet, create a vision and a mission. If you haven't revisited in a while, do that and commit to it. That's a process we're going through it for right now. And, and when you think about vision, it's kind of like, what do you want the world to look like? If you achieved what you wanted, what happens? And then a mission is a bit more tactical. So our vision is that influencer marketing is the number one form of brand communication in the world. The way that we're going to do that is by building tools and solutions that help transfer power and resources from platforms and corporations to people. Right? Because we believe that the future is in the individuals. And so we're going to create, again, either solutions or tech to do that.

And so for an influencer, you know, it can be really powerful to say that like, okay, let's say you're beauty influencer. And you say like "My vision is I want everybody to feel more beautiful and I'm going to do that by creating easy beauty tutorials that take less than five minutes or something. Right." Why am I doing this? If you feel like "God, my following's not growing." All this and if you can step back and say, "No, I'm not doing this to get a big following." The bigger following helps because the bigger my following the more people see my beauty tutorials, the more people can feel confident and beautiful. And so gaining that following becomes less self-serving right for you. If you had a 100,000 followers rather than your 30 K or something that you have, then that would be 70,000 more people, 75,000 more people who might be inspired to start a business who might be inspired to change the trajectory of their lives. Right? And that's so much more powerful than if I get enough followers I might get invited to the Chanel show.

DonYe: I feel like if people just set out to focus on their mission, I feel like all of that stuff kind of comes with it. You know what I mean? I didn't, I was not like this, like, "Oh, I'm going out to dinner here, dinner there, girl." But naturally people just started like wanting to invite me because they just want me at those places. But I don't create content to get invited to dinners or to do all of these things. I create content because I want people to know that they can be something on like not just on the internet, but in real life.

James: Right. So the famous talk from Simon Sinek, I believe called start with Why. And he just talks about how every great company had that core mission that didn't change. And that like, it is that mission that creates the things that you want. You kind of talk to your audience about this and reiterate, this is what I'm trying to do. Right?

DonYe: It's a different level of connection when you have a phone and you're like, "Hey guys, like today I'm going to do this. [inaudible 00:10:24]." That's a different level of connection. So I think that you were basically trying to say that that's something that I do, but I think that kind of goes into the transparency thing. I feel like that is what is a common denominator of this next wave of influencers that we're trying to get people to perceive. It's not everything being super duper perfect. It's being transparent. And I think that is what I have done on my social. And it was a journey. I used to think that doing type of stuff was cony. Right. And I just said, you know what? This is what I like to do. This is how I communicate best.

And it works really, really well for me. But I think it's because it's just something different when you feel like you're getting talked to instead of talked at. And I feel like it's easier to do that on social media, especially when you are rooted in your Why. Because now my audience feels like, "Okay, DonYe specifically talking to me. She relates to me." I love getting comments and DMS and emails saying, "Oh my God, I've never felt so seen." Like if I get that, then that's how I know that I have connected. And it's really hard to do that by just being super duper perfect all the time.

James: It's [inaudible 00:11:42] TikToking to your audience about it. It holds you accountable. Your audience can hold you accountable towards that mission. The more people who are out there saying, "Again, this is what I'm doing. It's not to go to these dinners. It's not these the free trips and the clothes and the sponsored posts. It's this deeper thing that I'm going after." I think that's really important. Audience members, followers, people get used to hearing influencers talk about why they're doing this and have it be about more than I want to be famous, I want to be wealthy, I don't want to have an office job and want to make money doing this. So I think that's important.

Understanding your power in the advertising and marketing industry

James: Another part is influencers just understanding their place in advertising and marketing and how powerful they are. Recently when The Biden White House briefed TikTokers on the war in Ukraine.

I thought that was is a huge moment for the space, because in years past The White House has really focused on, or the government's kind of focused on fighting misinformation and they go to Zuck or Jack Dorsey and they get them in a room and they say, "Hey, we have to a deal with this information. What are you going to do to fix this?" And I thought what was interesting about what The Biden White House did was I'm sure they did that. Right? But they also said, "Well, let's get these 20 really powerful influencers and let's brief them and let's get them on message and let's get them to talk about what we want them to. And maybe let's give them some kind of information that you can't get somewhere else, because we know a huge amount of people are getting their news from these people. Right? And we can't pretend they don't exist. We're going to actually pull them in. I thought that was hugely powerful. And I think that the more that happens and the more influencers understand how powerful they are in this space, the easier it will be I think to have more positive representations of influence in popular culture and to have people generally respect them more.

DonYe: I like that because I feel like I have so many nieces and nephews and they're like, "Oh, I want to be a YouTuber. I want to be an influencer." But it's like that Biden move. I feel like that opened up a whole new lane of maybe kids being like, "oh wow." I could see myself being a political influencer. You know what I mean? So just even just operating outside of the typical box of influencers and how they're utilized, I think that was really smart. And I think it shows how the space is shifting more towards, what we're saying, influencers being more rooted in lifestyle, decision making, choices and things that instead of it just being like products. So that's what I got from it.

James: There basically needs to be another spokesperson. But for social channels. Who is like disseminating this information.

DonYe: And break it down in 60 seconds.

James: Exactly. And The White House should be out there having somebody be their TikToker, the more influencers are respected by institutions which people really respect. Well, again, that's also changing in this world, but I think the more they're brought in and treated like institutions. Right? That the fact that TikToker are being briefed by The White House. The fact that Super Bowl Commercials had influencers in that. Right? Like it is changing that perception. So I feel like that's also something that we will see being a powerful force in changing this narrative.

How to introduce yourself

DonYe: I definitely feel like more influencers should be a little more cognizant of how they introduce themselves. And, oh, I'm a beauty influencers. I use beauty products and tutorials, and my content to make people feel better about themselves. I feel like the more that influencers start nailing down, like purposeful communication and messaging, I feel like over time that's how we get the people outside of this bubble to respect us. If we kind of like meet them in the middle and create a hybrid form of communication where it's like, I'm introducing myself as a business, you know what I mean? I'm introducing myself as a brand instead of just saying, "Oh yeah, I'm an influencer." It's like, what are you influencing?

James: And I think it like going back to the Genesis of this conversation, you were embarrassed to say you were an influencer. Right? And so probably the big first step is people to stop being embarrassed about it.

DonYe: And being proud too, of being influence. If somebody influences you to do something, I feel like you kind of look at being a follower or hopping on a trend or being inspired to do something is kind of negative as well. But it's like, it's okay to be inspired or influenced to do something. This person influenced me to do this. This person influenced me to do that. I feel like we're not really seeing a lot of that communication because of the negative stigma surrounding influencers. So whoever's watching this right now, Yes. I would like to challenge you to write down three things that a person influenced you to do that was not related to buying a product. I think this would be a really good time to plug the testimonial feature on Fohr.

If you are an influencer or a creator who really feels like their influence goes past purchasing a product, I highly recommend signing up for Fohr is a 100% free. And utilizing the testimonial feature, ask your followers to write a testimonial on what you have influenced them to do. And I think it's a really good digital feel good bank to just have to just go back to. Whenever you're feeling burnt out or feeling like, why am I influencing again? Log on a Fohr, read those testimonials and be like, oh, okay. This is why it's because I make people feel good about their bodies, I make people feel good about their career, things like that. So that's all I wanted to say.

James: Yeah. Feel free in the comments or you can DM me or you can send me alcohol as a thank you, but always love to see that I'm appreciated. I don't get a lot of positive reinforcement you might think, but it's lonely being me, DonYe.

DonYe: Okay, I can imagine. *winks*

Cheers, and thanks for watching.

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